November 2017

The Hits Keep Coming

There’s a lot more to percussion than just drums and cymbals.

Of the many percussion instruments we mentioned in our November 2017 article, none are more unusual than the Basque txalaparta. Here’s a clip of two young men playing one for spare change on a street corner in Bilbao, Spain. Note how they hold their “sticks” (wooden dowels) in the middle and point them down vertically, in a manner very different from the way one would play, say, a xylophone (perhaps the txalaparta’s closest relation).

Another cool percussion instrument made entirely of wood is the Chinese paiban and its larger cousin, the zhuban. For a brief demonstration of these distinctive “clackers,” watch the video below.

For less clack and more boom, you can always reach for a cajón. Notice how the cajónist in this video uses not only his hands but also one foot to alter the instrument’s pitch.

Have you ever seen or heard a Mark tree? Before you answer that question, you should know that this instrument is also commonly called a set of bar chimes; the “Mark” in its more picturesque name refers to its inventor, Mark Stevens. This brief clip shows a 36-bar tree in action.

The pitched gongs of an Indonesian gamelan ensemble can make an entrancing sound. This clip shows a group from Bali playing a style of gamelan music called kebyar, which is distinguished by complex rhythmic patterns and sudden changes in tempo and dynamics.

To get a better sense of how cowbells are made, check out this clip, which was filmed in the New Jersey factory of Latin Percussion.

And if you’ve never seen the Saturday Night Live “More cowbell!” sketch we referred to in the article, you’ll find it here. (You can thank us later!)